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The magic button

Last week’s column started quite a bit of discourse in the comments section of CuencaHighLife.com. I responded to some of those comments, something that I don’t usually do anymore. More often than not I don’t respond to anything that is said about me, I just let the conversation go and let others jump in .But this week some of the comments were personally rude and I felt I that I had no choice but to reply. Here was my basic reply: If you don’t like what I write, don’t read my column.  I’m not holding your feet to the fire.

Now, on to other things.

You’ll see in one of the news this week that EMOV, Cuenca’s transportaton authority, is placing more photo-radar systems around the city. The municipio launched a campaign to let people know where the systems are; they are actually handing out information packets to drivers throughout town (we got ours at an intersection near the McDonalds on Avenue 12 de Abril).

A Cuenca transit cop monitors a crosswalk.

Normally I don’t take anything from the people handing out flyers at intersections, but for some reason I did, and I’m glad for it. But as I read it waiting for the light to change, I wondered, “Why would you let me know where the systems are?” It seems counterproductive to me. Because I think that if you tell everyone where the radar monitors are, they are just going to watch for them and speed up after they pass them. Creating that kind of stop-and-go traffic that causes most of the accidents.

EMOV says they are doing this to make the roads safer for all of us who travel on them. But again, it seems to go against logic to tell us where they are. Now, I’m sure most people who do read the pamphlets they handed out will forget those locations and if they speed on a regular basis, they’re going to get caught sooner or later.

I’m one of those people. I do speed a lot when I’m driving around Cuenca. I have no justifiable excuse, other than to say that sometimes traffic requires it and other times it feels as if Ecuadorian drivers never learned that the gas pedal will make their cars go faster. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

As someone who drives in town regularly, what I would prefer is that EMOV spend their time actually enforcing traffic regulations.  In five years, I can tell you that other than the occasional traffic barricades that are set up to check paperwork on every driver (of course at the most inopportune places and times), I can’t even count on one hand when I have seen a Transito officer pull over someone for a flagrant violation. Even if it happens right in front of them.

As a general rule, what I find is that Cuencanans don’t respect crosswalks, always run the yellow”ish” light the second it changes to red, and don’t know that the LEGAL method of notifying someone behind them that they are pulling over, is with a directional signal—not the hazard flashers, or as I like to call them, the “Magic Button.”

The Magic Button is often used at the last second, almost after someone had slammed on their brakes and stopped in the middle of the road.  But as long as the Magic Button is used, “no harm, no foul” seems to be the attitude.

We actually witnessed an accident on 12 de Abril this week when a taxi came to a screeching halt at the same moment he pressed his Magic Button—to let a passenger out—and was rear-ended by truck.  The drivers got out and had a big argument, while blocking traffic for several blocks.  After about ten minutes a Transito officer arrived and told them to move on to another spot.  But it seemed from what I could make out of the conversation, he was blaming the guy driving the truck because he hit the taxi from behind.  Regardless of the fact that the taxi stopped right in the middle of the road.  The Magic Button has many powers!  Even the Transitos thing it is invincible.

Anyway, back to the lack of enforcement of the traffic rules.  What it seems the Transitos prefer to do in the city is to stand at an intersection, where the lights are working, and wave people through; as if we can’t see the lights.  Unfortunately, mot times it seems like they never got trained on how to manage the traffic.  For some inexplicable reason, you can almost promise that when a Tranisto officer is managing traffic at an intersection, the traffic jam will be worse than if they just let the lights manage the flow!

So, while I do believe that my speeding, and that of others, is an issue that should be addressed, I wish EMOV would NOT tell us all where there photo-radar systems are.  And I wish that they would spend the money instead on printing and handing out pamphlets that explain that people entering crosswalks actually do have the right of way, that yellow means “stop if safe to do so,” and that the hazard signal is not a Magic Button.

Because if I as a foreigner know the traffic laws here, the locals should as well.

I’m just sayin.’